Kevin's vice is procrastination. Make sure you don't team him up with Ash for a project! They would do it all at the last minute! And then Mike I. and Jen V. would yell at them because of their hot tempers. And Eve would make it overly complicated while Ron sat around thinking about his trip from Haiti and everyone else got drunk and smoked cigars. Anyway, Kevin decided to speed up things that are normally done slowly and slow down things that are normally done quickly to achieve balance. So he cooked some Arctic char very slowly, and then added a turnip salsa verde that he cooked very quickly, and added a celery salad. It's a pretty plate with a nice contrast between the pinkish fish and the green salads. And he had a way better link between the vice and the dish than Ash did. Kevin interviews that if he doesn't win, he'll be worried because the dish represents him and his best techniques, and if that's not what the judges are looking for, he's screwed.
The judges taste the final set of dishes. Wolfgang thinks that Michael's gnocchi look like chicken testicles. Maybe that was a subliminal hint that he's bisexual? He likes to look at boobs, but also nuts? I don't know. Wolfgang tastes a lot of alcohol in Preeti's dish. Gail loved Kevin's dish and his story. They all think that Eve's seafood and sauce are just okay, but the dish wasn't balanced. Tom isn't so sure about the seafood either. Tom thinks Michael's dish was clever, but Gail's kind of like "Simmer down, sailor." They all agree that the lamb was well-cooked and the dish was very professional. Back in the kitchen, Eve thinks her food tastes better than she explained it. Oh, she's not right about that, sadly. Wolfgang sums up that they have some bright stars this season, and it will be an interesting judging.
The cheftestants all sit around in the Stew Room, waiting for judging. Jen V. tries to explain her dish to Mike I., who has never heard of seitan before. He looks dubious, as he should. That's the one thing Mike and I agree on. [Editor's Note: Seitan is actually really good when prepared by someone who knows what they're doing. Honest! Red Bamboo in NYC, for example, does wondrous things with seitan, and I'm not even a vegetarian. End rant. -- Mindy] Eli vows to do things differently if he makes it through and interviews that winning the first challenge is important if only to let everyone else know where you stand. It's interesting how different this competition is, compared to the Masters. The Masters don't have as much to prove and aren't really about comparing themselves to their peers and coming out on top, at least from what we saw. Brother Michael thinks everyone's food looked decent, and Mike I. says he hates the waiting period. Actually, he says, "Fuck the waiting period." Get that soap! He had better get used to it -- based on all the footage over the seasons of the wackiness they got up to in the Stew Room, there's a lot of waiting.
Padma comes in and asks to see Ron, Mike I., Kevin, and Jen from Philly. So that's one person from each group, so it's either the winners or the losers. And since Jen V. and her seitan weren't included, it's got to be the winners. Ash tells everyone that the winners just walked out, and Bryan looks bummed that he wasn't called.
Judges' Table. Interesting that the judges get an apostrophe, while on Masters, the critics did not. Well, interesting only to me. The four cheftestants line up and Padma tells them that they are the winners of their respective groups. They start with Mike. Tom tells him that his flavors were good, and his food was well-seasoned. Gail loved the combinations of flavors. Wolfgang tells Jen that her fish was perfectly cooked, and he's never had better, but he advises her to stop drinking so much liquor and switch to white wine. Gail loved Ron's island flavors, and Tom has to tell him how his story was good, but not a vice. Wolfgang thought Kevin's dish was beautifully executed. Padma asks Wolfgang to reveal the winner, and Wolfgang says there was one dish that could go in any restaurant, and that was Kevin's. Kevin is obviously thrilled, since this puts him on top early and forces people to recognize his skill.
Ron tells Hector, Eve, Jen V., and Jesse to go out and see the judges. Padma tells them that they had the least favorite dishes. Tom tells Hector that he didn't have enough smoke flavor for a dish that was supposed to be smoky, and deep-frying the steak was a mistake. Wolfgang points out that a grill would have given more flavor. Hector explains that he was looking for a crunchy outside (which a good sear could accomplish, no?), but his brine was probably not smoky enough. Wolfgang thinks no one deep fries steak in America, for good reason.
Wolfgang tells Eve that her dish was blah with no seasoning. Eve says that she toned her sauce down, and usually she tends toward big, bold flavors but she wanted to simplify this dish. Gail is confused, and I don't really get why. Eve is saying that her vice is making things complicated, so she tried to make a simple dish. Oh, I get it. The dish was supposed to represent the vice, and Eve made it represent the solution to the vice. It's like if one of the procrastinators made a dish that has to be done way ahead of time. Anyway, they never really work out why they can't understand one another. Tom points out that the scallops weren't seared properly, the shrimp were overcooked, and the sauce was weak. Damn. Don't hold back, Colicchio!
Moving on to Jen V., Gail says that her dish wasn't refined enough, and since it was supposed to represent her hot temper, they needed more heat, and it wasn't there. Tom thinks Jen didn't know what she was trying to do. Jen disagrees, because she's made the dish before with those exact ingredients, and she thought it represented how she may have a hot temper, but she's also good for you. The judges clearly disagree with her execution, then. Padma asks gently, "Do you use this protein often?" The subtext is, "Because if you do, remind me never to go to your restaurant." Jen says that she does, and it's delicious. Tom breaks it to her that no one was impressed. Jen says that she wanted to stand out and be unforgettable. Gail says that it wasn't that she used seitan, it's that it didn't taste good. Heh. It's pretty sad that she has to break it to someone that their food didn't taste good. Did she taste it at all before she stuffed the peppers?
And now, Jesse. Tom says that the problem was the dried-out chicken breast. Jesse knew it was an issue and takes responsibility, because she pulled it out of the braise early. Tom points out that when something is braised, it needs to be in liquid as it cools. Jesse looks like she's trying not to cry as Wolfgang tells her that he thought the concept of the dish was excellent, and she just needs to work it out. Man, she needs to develop a thicker skin if she's going to be on this show. They said way harsher things to the others. At least they didn't tell her that her food just didn't taste good.
The cheftestants walk back to the Stew Room and Jen the Attention Whore collapses dramatically on the ground. Oh, get up. No one cares about your drama. I'm exhausted by her already. The judges confer. Tom points out that Jesse's dish was mostly good, other than the chicken breast, and Gail liked that Jesse knew exactly what mistakes she made. Wolfgang thinks Hector had an interesting idea with poor execution, and it might be a cultural thing too. Tom points out that Hector was in a really good group, meaning that if he were in a different group, his dish probably wouldn't have been the worst. Interesting. I wish they had done a ranking for one of the blogs on the Bravo website of the top five dishes regardless of group. That would be interesting, to see who got a break because they were in a crap group, and who got screwed because they were in a good group.
The judges move on to Jen's pepper, and Tom says that her protein wasn't seasoned and cooked right, no matter what she used. Gail thinks it was a mess, and Padma terms it, "a vegan bar mid